Alluris’ description enticed me as soon as I read it: “[A] single-player, role playing game that captures the essence of Oregon Trail if it were a fantasy game with the gameplay of Tinder.”
Thus intrigued by this initial pitch, I proceeded to check out a pre-release demo of Alluris I had kindly been provided access to by the developers. I discovered a very simple yet engaging game in which you swipe cards. Each swipe is a decision on an adventure, and behind the simplistic premise is at least a little bit of a D&D campaign.
Alluris is being crafted by 562 Interactive, an indie studio formed by three brothers. At QuakeCon 2019, I had the opportunity to sit down with Preston Weiler, brand manager at 562 Interactive, to discuss the project. First I had to know the inspiration behind this fun and simple premise.
“We’re trying to accomplish giving you an incredible choice and exploration-driven RPG adventure in a package that anybody can show up and love,” he said.
This isn’t the first game to use the swipe mechanic of Tinder. Weiler noted Reigns as an inspiration. Hearthstone is another, and Weiler said that 562 takes lessons from those two games’ “amazing polished experience” as well as their gameplay.
The team is also driven by inclusive design. While Weiler was speaking of Alluris’ inspiration, he shared the specific event that inspired it.
“[Me] and the rest of the devs were hopping on to play with a bunch of our friends, and one of our friends said to us that he couldn’t play that night, and we kinda all knew that that was because of a muscle disorder that he deals with. He’s a disabled gamer," Weiler said. "So realizing that his favorite hobby was stolen from him, and that’s probably the case with so many other people, we knew that we had to do something to try to make a game that was accessible to those people.”
It turns out that the Weiler brothers' attention towards inclusive design has unforeseen benefits. In developing Alluris, the developers worked with the r/colorblind community on Reddit. What they discovered as they took into account this disability is fascinating.
“We are partnering with as many accessible-play communities as we can possibly find,” Weiler explained. “They [r/colorblind] came in and they had a bunch of people test all sorts of different configurations of our game, and they helped us get to an incredible version that, as far as we understand today, has no colorblind limitations on play. That wouldn’t be possible without incredible work from a bunch of incredible people.
"And what we realized then, and what we hadn’t realized before, was that when you design for accessible play to any degree, but especially with respect to colorblindness, you are inherently designing your game to be a better experience. Because the information is a lot easier to read and understand.”
Beyond colorblindness, 562 is also taking heed of other disabilities. Weiler continued speaking of their efforts towards inclusivity. They are working with Microsoft to bring the game to Xbox so they can use the adaptive controller.
"Because we understand that a lot of times with especially physical limitations, just being able to have two buttons is all you need to play the game, so if we can configure those buttons in almost endless amounts of solutions, and then empower the player to configure their gameplay however they want to, we could build an endless number of accessible solutions for gamers that we can’t even conceive of as developers but they can implement all by themselves," he said.
That’s quite a hefty goal. What is the company culture behind this drive? A game studio’s culture is integral in how its games are developed. As part of an indie studio founded by himself and his two brothers, I asked Weiler what it was like to work in such a small, family-run environment.
“Nobody challenges you more than your siblings. But that’s a good thing when you’re an indie developer. Because it means that we regularly will point at huge studios, that we have no right to compare ourselves to, and say to each other, ‘Why can’t we do something that looks that cool, why can’t we have art that looks that good, or a game system that looks that good, or do marketing that they do but indie games don’t.' And, more often than not, you will find that the thing that separates you from the biggest studios around, is a lot less than you thought. Especially now more than ever as an indie developer.
"It also is interesting to see how, us as three brothers, having the same background … we’re able to understand one another and communicate better than I think any other indie game studio is capable of doing," Weiler said. "And so long as we’re able to communicate effectively, and we have a tremendous amount of respect for one another and the work that we all get to collectively do, we end being able to accomplish a lot more in a lot less time than a lot of other people.”
Amidst all their work and goals, 562 Interactive understands the importance that the focus remain on making fun games. They operate on a simple motto: “We don’t really take ourselves very seriously.” I asked Weiler to extrapolate on this.
“We found that the indie studios that end up taking themselves really seriously make games that aren’t that fun, and a lot of people don’t like them. And that’s just because people show up and they play [at] indie studios because they want those fun little jokes. They want the interaction with the developers, even when they’re playing the game," he said. "And if you lose sight of that, you lose sight of what makes a lot of fun happen for indie games. So we want to make sure that above all we never lose sight of what makes our games fun—and just not taking ourselves very seriously as developers.”
I have played Alluris and think that the game’s simple premise, visuals, and sense of fun are all very well realized. The Weiler brothers’ design ideas, in practice, do create what they intend: fun and accessible experiences. If you’d like to learn more about the three-brother studio or their game Alluris, check out their website here.
What do you think of Alluris' "swipe-your-own-adventure" premise? Does 562 Interactive's goal towards inclusive design excite you? Let us know in the comments below!